Standing Out at Work: When Everyone is the Anchor, be the Propeller
There is an interesting dialog happening on social media lately related to “boundaries and work”. Well-intentioned “experts” are saying out of respect to yourself that you should never do more than your job description or work for free under any circumstance, because doing so would be disrespectful to yourself.
I think this is excellent advice, if you want to stay in the same position for the rest of your career.
This short-sighted thinking fails to consider two things: first, that there are many forms of compensation, besides monetary. And secondly, taking on more than your job description at work is the best evidence that you go above and beyond. As Andy Frisella once said, you can be the anchor or you can be the propeller. Which will you choose to be?
I owe so much of my career success to work I did without monetary compensation. Volunteering on campaigns, student council, and internships in government offices was the best political education I ever received. These various experiences introduced me to people who later connected me to paid job opportunities. Volunteering my time for the Young Republican Federation and sharing campaign tips for free on my social media has led to many political consulting clients.
Want to run for office someday, start serving your community now by organizing a community day in service. Want to grow your business? Start attending young professional and Chamber of Commerce events to network.
At work, I never decline a project if it’s outside of my job description, unless the additional project would cause my top priorities to suffer. Doing so allows me to increase my breath of experience and demonstrates my range of abilities to my colleagues.
If you want your boss’s job someday, start doing as much of it now as you can. Lead before you have a leadership position. Don’t just dress for the job you want, work like you already have it. Ask to sit in on meetings that are above your pay grade. I have asked to join conference calls just as a learning opportunity. I mute myself and take notes. It’s on the job training, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. If you hit a slow time, ask for more work. When a more senior position opens, these are the behaviors at work that will make you the easy choice for advancement.
There is a distinction between what I’m suggesting and being taken advantage of. Being able to discern the difference is important. Having boundaries for me looks like sending my team a Slack message before a dinner date with my husband so they know I’ll be off grid for a few hours. Or not bringing my phone into church on Sunday mornings. My colleagues know, if there is a time-sensitive matter outside of regular business hours, I can be trusted to handle it. But I don’t do my team any good if my personal life, physical health, or emotional health suffer. Some of the most successful consultants in my industry block out time to sit on the floor and play Legos with their kids for an hour a day. Making sure all areas of your life succeed will only increase your value at work. So, feel confident you don’t have to allow the rest of your life to suffer to succeed at work. But know that if you want to catapult past your peers, the fastest route is to do much more than you are paid for, because soon you will be.